CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Preston’s new face mask is emblazoned with the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag.
While protecting him from the coronavirus, it would normally also put him in danger in Manenberg, one of a number of violent and poor neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Cape Town known as the Cape Flats. The mask's colours identify Preston as a member of the Americans, a criminal gang usually unwelcome on the turf of the rival Hard Livings gang.
“They’d shoot me," the 35-year-old says with what appears to be a smile, his eyes crinkling.
But today, he's working side-by-side with other notorious gang members to deliver bread, flour and vegetables to poor families who are struggling during South Africa's coronavirus lockdown, which has closed industries and left many in Manenberg without work.
Preston stands in a courtyard with the other gang members amid an unlikely truce, bowing his head as Danny, a senior member of the Hard Livings, says a prayer. Caps are removed and tattooed arms are held behind backs.
The project was started by Andie Steele-Smith, an Australian known as the “gang pastor.” They ride in the back of his bakkie and trailer, leaping off to carry items to homes and soup kitchens.
The first thought (naïve and cynical maybe) that one might have is to think that this is very weird behaviour from gangsters.
Aren't they suppose to be all about exploitation and control of as much as possible?
Can someone with knowledge and insight please comment on this article and post to explain this behaviour?
Can peace between gangs really be made or is this a contradiction in terms?
Do gangs really want to help the communities in which they operate or is this just a ploy (or window dressing) to get communities on their side?
Basically … what do gangs want?